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It begins after Felix returns to Fhirdiad from a mission to defuse a small rebellion in former Empire territory. The campaign is short, relatively bloodless, and the leader of the insurgents is captured alive for questioning – it’s the very epitome of the word triumph. In spite of his overwhelming success, Felix is unable to prevent himself from becoming the unwilling centerpiece for a boozy late-night celebration of the fact that all seems going well in post-war Fódlan. Nobles and officers alike attend the impromptu festivities, so that Felix ends up having to entertain a line of toasts so long that it nearly floods out of Castle Fhirdiad’s main hall all the way into its courtyard.

The first time that Dimitri manages to get through the queue, Felix raises an eyebrow, slumps down his seat slightly, and says, “Don’t you dare raise that mug. You should know very well that I would have preferred to be rewarded by being left well alone for the night, but – well. Here we are.”

“Here we are indeed,” Dimitri replies, smiling wryly. “Perhaps you should switch the beer over to water. It’s unlikely that anybody would notice… and besides that, tonight you’re beyond anybody’s reproach.”

“I can hold my drink, boar. More importantly, have you read my mission report?” Felix asks.

Dimitri wants to tell Felix that he does admire Felix’s sense of diligence greatly, but he wishes that Felix could allow himself to take a well-deserved break every once in a while. He doesn’t say the first part because he knows Felix will take it the wrong way, and he doesn’t say the second part because he’s worried that would induce exactly the opposite of its intended effect. So instead he says, “Not yet. I’ll read it tomorrow morning – I promise.”

“You’d better,” Felix replies, then straightens his posture back up. “Now off with you. The faster I go through this line, the faster I can go to sleep.”

The second time Dimitri comes around to toast, hours have passed and even the most enthusiastic of partygoers are finally leaving. Dimitri has hardly finished a single drink himself – he’d taken the opportunity to do some informal politicking while peoples’ moods were high and predilections loose – while in sharp contrast, there is an impressive quantity of empty glasses on the table in front of Felix.

“Time to call it a night?” Dimitri asks.

Felix sighs sharply before he replies, “It was time to call it a night before the drinking even began. Since when is it in the culture of Faerghus to find as many excuses as possible to have a party?”

“People are grateful for peacetime and admire all you’ve done to ensure it isn’t going anywhere,” Dimitri says.

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” Felix tells him. “Helping me up might.”

“That would definitely get you somewhere,” Dimitri jokes.

Felix groans and mutters, “Awful. Absolutely awful.”

But he takes Dimitri’s hand when it’s offered anyway. Dimitri pulls Felix up and Felix’s face instantly goes white as he stands. “That was a bad idea,” Felix murmurs before he begins to sway unsteadily; he tries to grab the corner of the table to steady himself and misses entirely – Dimitri has to catch him before he falls.

“Felix? Stay with me,” Dimitri says. “Are you going to be sick?”

Even though they haven’t moved at all, Felix staggers. Dimitri figures all the alcohol must have hit him when he’d gone from sitting to standing – Felix’s eyes are so unfocused that Dimitri finds it disconcerting to look at him. Dimitri has seen Felix bloodied and with the grime of battle smeared unpleasantly over his face, but seeing Felix unable to concentrate fully on what’s right in front of him leaves a far nastier taste in Dimitri’s mouth.

“I’m fine. Just walk,” Felix finally answers. Each syllable is pointed, with a deliberate pause in between as if to prevent himself from tripping over the pronunciation.

After a moment of consideration, Dimitri decides to take Felix for the words he’s saying, not the way he says them. Felix leans heavily against him as Dimitri walks him to the guest chambers Felix always occupies when he’s in the capital – these days, though, Felix spends so much of his time in Fhirdiad that everybody who works in the castle casually refers to it as Duke Fraldarius’s chambers, which Dimitri quietly enjoys, because it feels like there’s at least a small part of Felix that belongs to the same place he does.

Most of the lights have already been put out for the night, but the sky is so clear that the moonlight suffices. Felix seems to come in and out of being conscious and blacking out as they walk, but he doesn’t get any worse.

“Dimitri,” Felix says suddenly, so Dimitri stops and glances down. Felix inhales deeply and sighs slowly, then he closes his eyes and presses his cheek lightly to Dimitri’s upper arm. A moment passes before Felix opens his eyes again. He meets Dimitri’s gaze directly and Dimitri is relieved to see some of Felix’s usual focus has returned – not entirely, but enough that Felix feels like he’s himself again.

In the light of the near-full moon, Felix looks more vulnerable than he usually does – almost fragile, like any sudden tension might shatter him entirely. Finally, Felix says, “I love you too. Even though…”

He falls silent again. Something about the atmosphere around Felix stops Dimitri from saying anything out loud, even though a response immediately leaps to the tip of his tongue and begs to be spoken out loud.

“No, never mind,” Felix murmurs. He closes his eyes again and sways unsteadily, breathing shallowly; Dimitri holds onto him a little tighter and counts the seconds. After three minutes have passed without Felix regaining his footing, Dimitri decides that Felix must have blacked out again.

Carefully, he picks Felix up off of the ground and carries him back to his room, laying him to bed. He takes Felix’s half-cape and boots off – Felix doesn’t so much as stir even when Dimitri struggles with the lacing on Felix’s ankle boots. After Dimitri has tucked a pillow underneath Felix’s head and put a blanket over him, he sits at the very edge of Felix’s bed and stares at him freely, the way he wishes he could during daytime.

There is something deeply reassuring about watching Felix breathe. “You’re alive and well,” Dimitri says out loud. “Is it asking for too much… if I still want more than that?”

Felix continues to sleep peacefully. Dimitri leans in and almost kisses him on the cheek – at the last moment he pulls back suddenly, and instead brushes Felix’s hair out of his face gently before he leaves.

 

 

 

Before Dimitri also goes to sleep, he arranges for a castle servant to check in on Felix every hour or so until he wakes up. “Take care to not disturb him if you can help it,” he’d said, but somehow Felix still manages to wake up in time to intercept Dimitri in his private study before he begins his weekly open consultation hours.

“You’re already up?” Dimitri says when Felix enters the royal chambers.

“No, I’m astral projecting,” Felix replies, rolling his eyes and then wincing as he sits down in front of Dimitri and catches a sunbeam right to his face.

 Dimitri shakes his head and says, “Well, your usual good temper has already returned. I suppose that means you’re feeling fine.”

“I’ve been better, but I’m functional. Besides, I’ve had to do more things on less sleep before,” Felix says.

“I see,” Dimitri replies, after a pause.

Felix frowns and crosses his arms. “I don’t like the way you said that. Did I do something that you want to talk about?” he asks.

“No, it’s nothing,” Dimitri answers – he thinks that he may have replied a little too fast, though, so he continues: “I was thinking that you’ve set a fine example of what it is to be cursed by success.”

Felix gives Dimitri a look that tells Dimitri he’s internally debating whether he wants to dig his heels in on this point and thoroughly delve into whatever Dimitri doesn’t want to say – but he closes his eyes and sighs softly, so Dimitri knows that Felix is about to acquiesce before he even changes the topic. “Let’s move onto business, then. You said you’d read my mission report,” Felix says.

“I skimmed it, yes. You mentioned there was something you wanted to discuss in person?” Dimitri replies.

“There was something peculiar about the rebellion,” Felix says. “It was almost… too easy to resolve. I have a feeling that this is the smokescreen for something much larger.”

“Ah, I see… so that’s the reason you captured and brought their leader to Fhirdiad. I’d been wondering why you had gone out of your way for that,” Dimitri replies.

Felix nods and uncrosses his arms before he continues, “I plan to interrogate her later today. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“Please take the day off, Felix,” Dimitri says, trying to keep his tone deliberately even and casual. “I’m not saying this for your sake – at this rate, your junior officers are going to work themselves to exhaustion if they try to keep up with your pace.”

Unexpectedly, that gets a brief, almost wistful smile out of Felix. “That’s a bad lie, but I’ll pretend I believe it,” he informs Dimitri. “Fine. The interrogation will be tomorrow, then.”

Felix gets up – without thinking, Dimitri blurts out, “Wait – before you go, Felix…”

You said last night that you love me too, he thinks, even though you said you had no answer when I confessed to you before. Can I ask… if that means you’ve changed your mind in even the slightest?

The seconds tick away. Felix tilts his head and gives Dimitri an odd look. “Spit it out,” he says. “It gives me a bad feeling when you don’t rush into things.”

Dimitri laughs ruefully and waves his hand. “My apologies. I was contemplating how to tell you to actually rest on your day off in a way that won’t make you do exactly the opposite,” he replies, because that isn’t exactly a lie.

“Doing it like that is just fine,” Felix informs him. “For your information, I plan to buy some sweets and visit Annette at the magic academy.”

“Pass on my well-wishes to her,” Dimitri says.

Felix hums noncommittally, which Dimitri knows is a tacit affirmative, and leaves without a proper farewell. After the door closes behind him, Dimitri sighs and forms a bridge with his hands, resting his elbows on his desk and leaning forward to press his forehead against his fingers.

“Am I showing good caution… or is this mere cowardice?” he murmurs.

Before he can settle in for extended contemplation, though, another visitor comes by to give a report on the state of the former Alliance territories. Swept up into the usual brisk flow of work, Dimitri allows himself to forget his personal troubles in favor of the admittedly difficult task of continental governance.

 

 

 


 

 

 

27 Blue Sea Moon

To: Claude von Riegan

I hope this letter finds you in good health.

Enclosed is a mission report from Duke Fraldarius, who recently attended to a minor revolt in former Empire territory. Upon further investigation, he found some unusual circumstances surrounding the rebellion. He was able to capture the apparent leader alive and questioned her, but it appears that she has almost no recollection of why she instigated a rebellion in the first place. It was determined that magical interference is likely. The full report has more details.

Since then, we’ve received reports of two other rebellions forming under very similar circumstance. Hence, we suspect this incident may be part of a larger plot to instigate some kind of uprising. I would like to request that you put your resources to work investigating any signs of large-scale insurgent activity in F ódlan. If you should agree to the task, I leave it to your discretion how you wish to proceed. I’ve sent a similar letter to the Professor and have asked the Church to look into matters on their end, so you may wish to contact him as well. You will, of course, receive proper compensation for your efforts.

To be clear, my primary goal is to establish proper communication with any potential rebels. I would prefer to avoid bloodshed if possible.

With good-will,

Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd

 

 

 

8 Verdant Rain Moon

Dear Your Kingliness,

Consider this job accepted! I’ve been lacking for interesting work lately anyway. This sounds like a challenge worth cracking open. We’ll discuss rates later.

By the way, you can call him Felix. Isn’t it too stuffy for former classmates to be addressing each other by title? I was seriously scratching my head for a few moments before I remembered Felix’s surname.

I’ll change to cipher 16 the next time I post you something. Don’t send me anything in the meanwhile – information may be compromised otherwise.

Yours truly,

Claude

P.S.

Ever the idealist, aren’t you? Not that it’s a bad thing.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Minor revolts continue to rise and fall throughout Fódlan, but most of them die out on their own before gaining any traction – it is taken as a sign of the kingdom’s increasing prosperity that commoners don’t seem naturally inclined towards revolution. Many of them share the same strange circumstances as the rebellion Felix saw to, especially those concentrated around the border between the former Alliance and Empire; royal mages determine that dark magic is almost certainly in use, but aren’t able to find anything deeper than that.

While Dimitri waits for either Claude to send him information or for something in his relationship with Felix to spontaneously change, the second anniversary of the end of the Great War approaches. A grand festival takes place in Fhirdiad, offering a rare opportunity for commoners to meet with their king; Dimitri agrees to spend a few hours dressed up in his royal best to greet and shake hands with his people.

It’s rare for Dimitri to wear his ceremonial garb, mostly because of how stuffy and unnecessary he finds it, but partially because of how valuable some of the pieces are. The Blaiddyd signet in particular predates even the founding of the kingdom, making the ring a regalia even more precious and symbolically important than the royal crown. Dimitri favors more utilitarian clothes whenever possible, but he does have to admit having a personal fondness for the signet – not because of how beautifully the ring is cut, but because he was so favorably impressed as a child by the fact that it appears in all the legends about Loog.

Felix forces his way into being put in charge of security for the event, and everybody on the festival planning committee agrees in light of the fact that it is not only very difficult to successfully argue with Felix, but they are also unlikely to find anybody as well-suited for the job as Felix is. Felix handpicks a contingent of the King of Lion Corps to act as a royal guard and instructs them to check every civilian carefully for anything that could be used as a weapon before allowing them through, then posts the rest to patrol duty around the courtyard chosen to serve as the event location. Even with the thorough checkpoints, people flow in and out of the line smoothly – Dimitri thinks that he probably shakes hands with at least one hundred different people in an hour.

As the appointed time draws to an end, Felix comes by to check in on him; Felix looks annoyed as he approaches, but his severe expression softens as he gets closer. “You look like you enjoyed yourself,” Felix notes. “Good. Then it was worth all the trouble we went through to make this happen.”

“I appreciate your efforts, as always,” Dimitri says. “Give me a list of all the guards you picked. I’ll send them letters of gratitude for their hard work. After all – they did have to deal with a perfectionist overseeing them.”

Felix crosses his arms and gives Dimitri a flatly unamused look, which only serves to make Dimitri laugh – so Felix sighs and changes the subject: “It’s almost time to head back.”

“I understand why it’s best that I keep a low profile, but at least let me walk back to the castle on my own,” Dimitri asks, feeling very much like a child trying to wheedle sweets out of an adult. “I want to take a quick look around at the rest of the festival on my way back. I won’t stray, I promise.”

After a pause, Felix says, “I’ll go with you, then.”

“Even better,” Dimitri replies. He hands off the crown and scepter to be brought to the castle separately, but stays in his ceremonial garb otherwise.

Naturally, Felix attempts to lead them down the most direct path back to the castle, but Dimitri convinces him to take a few minor detours. People notice them, of course – with how tall Dimitri is and the way he’s dressed, it’d be even more strange if they didn’t – but most are inclined to stay back and wave from a distance, perhaps because the atmosphere around Felix clearly projects that they should stay back.

Only one civilian bravely steps forward despite that – a young man, probably around their age. “Can I shake hands with you, Your Majesty?” he asks enthusiastically.

Felix frowns and steps between them, holding up an arm as if to physically put up a barrier. “He’s on his way back to the castle. You’ve missed your chance. Come back next year,” he replies.

“It’s alright, Felix. It’s only a handshake, I’m happy to do it,” Dimitri says.

“You’re too trusting,” Felix informs him, sighing sharply. “Fine. At least let me check him for weapons, though.”

After Felix has done a thorough inspection and confirmed there’s nothing even vaguely weapon-like on the man’s person, Felix nods tersely. “Thank you so much,” the man says before he grabs Dimitri’s hand eagerly, giving him a firm, solid handshake.

Dimitri doesn’t sense anything odd in the man’s grip. Only a few seconds after he lets go does he notice that his hand feels oddly light. He frowns in confusion before holding his right hand up to find that his signet is gone; when he looks up again, the man is fleeing down the street, away from the well-guarded festival and towards the outer city ramparts.

He hears Felix curse violently beside him. Then Felix throws off his ceremonial cloak, letting it fall to the street without hesitation. “Don’t be hasty, Felix,” Dimitri begins to say – but Felix cuts him off.

“I’ll be damned,” Felix snarls, “if I allow the royal signet to be stolen right in front of me without doing a single thing about it!”

Then he takes off, hot on the trail of the thief. A second later, Dimitri tosses aside his own cloak and runs after Felix; with his longer stride, he catches up in time to see the thief use a ladder to climb onto the ramparts – then he kicks the ladder down to the ground.

The two of them stare up at the wall. The bricks have worn down with age so that the surface is effectively flat and unscalable – though even if they could climb up the wall, it would almost certainly take so much time that the thief would get away while they were scrabbling at the rocks.

Suddenly, Felix says, “Toss me up.”

“What?” Dimitri replies, turning to give Felix an incredulous glance.

“Like when we were children! This is no time to argue, just do it, Dimitri!” Felix tells him.

Dimitri knows what he means, but he wants to insist it’s too dangerous – that was a cute little trick that they’d practiced for hours when they were younger and Felix’s center of gravity was closer to the ground. Right now, though, they only have one chance to make sure everything goes right, and if things go wrong – he doesn’t even want to think about how far Felix would be falling before he hits the pavement.

But the intense, fiery look in Felix’s eyes ignites something within him and makes him want to believe that between the two of them, everything will turn out fine. So Dimitri nods tersely before kneeling, forming a foothold with his hands.

Felix backs up a few paces and sprints at full speed, slamming the toe of his boot into Dimitri’s hands as Dimitri lifts upwards with his entire body, sending Felix into the air. Dimitri watches from below as Felix seems to soar effortlessly, as if flying with unseen wings – the sight leaves Dimitri temporarily breathless; his chest contracts and his heart thuds heavily in his ribcage.

You’re beautiful, Dimitri thinks, and then the moment passes.

Felix twists in midair to grab at the edge of a merlon with his fingertips, then slams his palms flat against it as he flips himself up and over the wall – the sound of impact is neat, so Dimitri assumes Felix lands safely on his feet. Not long afterwards, Dimitri hears a pained cry and then a thud from further down the wall – a few seconds later, Felix calls, “I’ve got him. Get the guards.”

Fifteen or so minutes later, Dimitri and five of the royal guard ascend the ramparts to take the would-be thief into custody. Felix has the man unconscious on the ground; although he’s already knocked the criminal out, Felix still presses his weight into the man’s back and keeps his arms restrained – and Felix’s ceremonial dagger is sticking out of the left calf of the man.

“I have to thank Ashe for teaching me how to throw knives the next time I see him,” Felix says with magnificent indifference as he gets up and allows the royal guard to take the man in. “Here’s your ring, boar.”

Dimitri ignores the thief in favor of crossing the distance between himself and Felix – he takes the ring back, but immediately hands it off to a guard for safekeeping so he can carefully grab Felix’s hands and turn them over to check for injuries. The skin of his fingertips has been scraped raw and there’s a bit of swelling around his right wrist which Dimitri suspects is the sign of a sprain, but nothing seems severe. Dimitri gives an audible sigh of relief and gently squeezes Felix’s hands in between his own before letting go.

After having seen for himself that Felix hasn’t suffered any major injuries, Dimitri wants to yell at Felix for being so reckless – to tell him that Felix’s well-being is worth so much more to him any object – but he knows that Felix will immediately call him out for being a hypocrite. If that’s how you felt, then you shouldn’t have agreed to my plan, he would say, and Dimitri would be left without any proper rebuttal to make. And he understands all too well that Felix himself must have felt an urgency to act that almost bordered on necessity – that Felix knew in the moment before he started running that he might have regretted it for the rest of his life if he had simply let it go. Though Felix shows it in different ways than the rest of his family, his sense of duty is as deeply ingrained within him as all the other men of Fraldarius whom Dimitri has ever known.

Instead, Dimitri exhales slowly and hugs Felix close. “If you’re going to be reckless,” he murmurs, “only do it where I can see it happening… for my peace of mind. Please.”

There’s a pause before Felix reaches around and pats Dimitri’s back with his left hand – awkwardly, but not without affection. “Fine. I’ll try to keep that in mind… I won’t try that hard, though,” Felix mutters.

Dimitri laughs softly and releases Felix from his embrace, although he keeps his hands on Felix’s shoulders for a few moments longer. “Trying even a little is enough for me. Let’s have a healer see to you.” A pause – “And perhaps afterwards, I can treat you to a drink for your efforts?”

“Yes to the healer,” Felix replies, “but no to the alcohol. I’m still regretting the last time that I was coerced into drinking as a so-called reward…”

“That’s fair,” Dimitri says agreeably, trying to mask his disappointment.

Felix sighs and says, “Dinner is fine, though.”

Dimitri decides to take it as a win and gladly accepts.

 

 

 

A few days later, Felix questions their would-be thief and finds yet again that his interrogee doesn’t even remember what he did. Dimitri debates going against Claude’s request to refrain from sending him any updates – but in the end, he decides to take the same tactic that he has been with Felix: have faith and wait.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Dimitri,

Meet me in the city where I surrendered 2 years ago on the 20th of this moon. Make sure your retinue is small. It would be best if you could arrange things so that your absence is confidential to only your most trusted inner circle. It would be better to discuss what I’ve found in person.

Yours truly,

Claude

 

 

 


 

 

 

Dimitri, Felix, and one member from each of their personal battalions travel to Derdriu together, leaving Dedue to hold things down in Fhirdiad. A horse relay is arranged so that it takes them only a few days to make the trip; they arrive just after daybreak on the twentieth. One of Claude’s informants intercepts their group before they can enter the city proper and has Dimitri and Felix board a small trading vessel while their guards are stationed by the docks.

“Sorry for the short notice,” Claude says, though he still grins cheerfully in greeting as they join him on the deck. He has with him two men whom Dimitri recognizes from previous meetings with Claude: one of them is Nader the Unstoppable and the other is an-and-coming Almyran warrior by the name of Reza. “We’re still waiting on a few people before we leave Derdriu.”

“No need to apologize, Claude. You’re odd, but I know you don’t do things without a reason,” Dimitri replies.

“We aren’t sailing elsewhere, are we?” Felix asks.

Reza makes a disparaging noise in his throat. “Haven’t got sea legs, little noble?” he asks.

Felix bristles, but Claude swiftly cuts in before Felix can open his mouth: “No, we’re not. I wanted the extra insurance that no prying ears will overhear our conversation… and this is how I’m getting back home once we’re done here.”

“Fine. That’s all I wanted to know,” Felix replies curtly.

“Are you sure about that?” Reza asks – his tone is ambiguous, but the way he takes an aggressively large step forward is not.

In response, Felix looks up and glares at Reza briefly, but with such intensity that the sheer animosity can practically be felt as if it were something physical. “We haven’t come all this way to play pointless games of intimidation,” Felix says, tone both cold and calm. “You can either back down now or prepare to pay the price for your pointless arrogance. Your choice.”

“Let’s not do anything rash,” Dimitri says. He steps forward and places a hand on Felix’s shoulder, trying to guide Felix into physically stepping away – but Felix throws Dimitri’s hand off without even looking glancing backwards at him.

Claude visibly grimaces. He and Dimitri exchange hapless glances, which is all that Dimitri needs to know that they must both be thinking the same thing: Well, this could be going a lot better.

For a few moments, a tense silence dominates all else. Then Nader throws back his head and breaks into a raucous peal of laughter. “You northerners might not be as fiery as we Almyrans are, but ice still burns, doesn’t it?” he says. “Reza, you’d be better off backing down while you still can. Don’t you recognize that the Shield’s Successor stands before you?”

He is?” Reza replies – he stares at Felix again, but this time with a mix between incredulity and awe.

Felix sighs sharply, shaking his head. “I can’t believe that dreadful nickname has made it all the way to Almyra,” he mutters.

“They also call you the King’s Executioner over there,” Claude offers.

“The Shield’s Successor will be fine, then,” Felix immediately replies.

Dimitri has to stifle his laugh by clearing his throat. Felix gives him a sidelong glare and Dimitri makes his best attempt at a recalcitrant expression in response – he supposes it must pass, because Felix sighs and shakes his head before turning to look forward again.

Not long after that, a wyvern suddenly breaks away from the clouds and begins a rapid descent towards the ship – all of the people on board react immediately, instinctively preparing to respond to an enemy attack, but Claude calls out, “Wait! That’s Seteth’s wyvern, everybody stay your hands!” and the moment of tension passes. The wyvern pulls its wings up only seconds before it lands smoothly on the main deck and allows its passengers to dismount – first, Byleth hops down casually, then Seteth.

“Hello,” Byleth says with his usual disarming nonchalance, smiling slightly as he nods to each of his former students in turn.

“My apologies for keeping you waiting,” Seteth says. “We won’t need to rest – let’s begin the meeting.”

Nader and Reza remain on the deck to act as look-outs while the rest of them gather in the main cabin and sit around a makeshift planning table with a map of Fódlan laid out on it.

“Let’s get right to things, then. Two years ago, when the Kingdom army took the Imperial palace… did anybody notice soldiers that behaved strangely?” Claude asks.

Byleth tilts his head slightly and says, “Those mages…”

“That’s right,” Dimitri says. “There were dark mages there, but they didn’t seem to be fully allied with the Imperial forces. Once we took out their leader, the rest retreated.”

“We did try to find them afterwards, of course,” Felix adds. “But nothing came of it. We assumed they were mercenaries who decided to cut ties when they realized they were on the losing end of things.”

Claude nods and says, “You’re not wrong about that, but not entirely right either. Seteth, Teach – does the word Agartha ring any bells?”

Seteth frowns and asks, “Where did you learn of that name?”

“I managed to get my hands on some of the late Hubert von Vestra’s documents,” Claude replies.

“Are we being kept in the dark about something?” Felix interjects sharply. “Explain things in a way that all of us can understand.”

Dimitri watches as Claude looks towards Byleth, who shrugs before shaking his head. “I think the only important detail is that they hold a grudge against the people of Fódlan, and probably… the Church in particular,” Byleth finally says.

“But even without realizing it, the Kingdom army already dealt them a fatal blow,” Claude says. “Some of them were posing as Imperial officers and nobles… and it seems their leader had been pretending to be Lord Arundel. So after the war ended, this shadow organization was weakened considerably, but it’s still around.”

“Ah, I think I see where this is going,” Dimitri says. “The dark mages we fought in the Imperial palace were part of this organization…”

Felix finishes that thought for him: “And they’re also behind the strange incidents we’ve been seeing.”

“Right, exactly. But yours truly has managed to down their whereabouts,” Claude says. “I’ve prepared a document with all the information I’ve gathered – all four of you should read it here and dispose of it as soon as you’ve got it all memorized.”

They gather around as Claude unfurls two sheets of paper; one is a map and the other is a guide. “I believe that’s near Hrym territory,” Dimitri says, frowning slightly. “I don’t suppose there’s any chances we can open communications?”

“Take it on my word that negotiations will break down. The depth of their grudge… is severe, to put it lightly,” Seteth answers after a pause.

Byleth adds, “For whatever it’s worth, I agree. I understand that you want to resolve things peacefully, Dimitri… but taking care of this quickly and discreetly is what’s best for Fódlan’s future.”

Dimitri doesn’t say anything more, but he supposes that Felix must read the hesitation in his expression. “You’re not thinking about this from the right angle, boar,” Felix says. “We have to prevent public hysteria. Think about it… what would the worst case outcome be if the people knew that there’s some kind of secret organization of dark magic practitioners that can manipulate peoples’ actions and memories?”

“You’re right,” Dimitri finally replies – there’s more he has on his mind, but he decides to leave things at that for the time being. “Very well. Professor, Seteth – may I formally request the Church’s cooperation in this matter?”

“Of course,” Byleth says. “Let us consider our line of attack, then.”

 

 

 

The meeting goes on for a few hours longer before Byleth and Claude jointly force the group to take a much-needed break. While Byleth serenely sits in between Seteth and Felix to prevent them from continuing the conversation, Claude drags Dimitri above to the deck and they chat for a while about inconsequential things – it’s a welcome change of pace, Dimitri thinks.

“So,” Claude says. “You and His Grace, huh?”

“Whose grace are you referring to?” Dimitri replies.

“You know, that’s how you’re supposed to address dukes… never mind, my wry commentary on how Felix’s title doesn’t match his personality clearly fell flat,” Claude says, sighing before he moves on. “I’ll be blunt. Are you two a thing?”

“No,” Dimitri answers, after a pause.

Claude leans in towards Dimitri and says, “That moment of hesitation tells me so much.”

“Well, why do you even think that we might be in the first place?” Dimitri asks.

“You two are finishing each others’ sentences, standing real close to each other, following each others’ gazes… if it looks like love and it smells like love, it’s probably love,” Claude says. “So why aren’t you guys a thing, then?”

“It’s complicated,” Dimitri says, hoping that it’ll shut down further conversation – he doesn’t want to delve further into things, not because he doesn’t want to talk about his feelings with Claude, but because he doesn’t know how to express them properly in the first place. “Felix is complicated. Even for me.”

“I’d say especially for you,” Claude replies. “But it looks to me like you’re also being plenty complicated yourself. Why not try being honest and seeing if he responds in turn?”

Dimitri raises an eyebrow and asks, “Are you speaking from personal experience, or…?”

“No, but I – wait, have you finally learned how to deflect? Good job,” Claude replies, before winking ostentatiously. Dimitri knows Claude is well-aware he deflected right back; they lock glances for a moment and silently agree to drop the topic.

“Thank you, Claude,” Dimitri says instead.

“Hm? No need, no need. I only wanted to keep relaxing a little longer,” Claude replies. His tone is almost a caricature of casual flippancy, though, so Dimitri is all the more certain that Claude sensed he could use a break and minor pep talk.

They return below deck to the main cabin and spend the rest of the day finishing their plan. After they’ve finalized the details, Claude burns the documents and scatters the ashes to the sea.

“We should return to Fhirdiad,” Felix says.

“It’s already sundown, so why don’t you two stay overnight instead? I know a few inns that can be trusted to be discreet as long as you’ve got the coin for it,” Claude suggests. “You two… do have the coin for that, right?”

Felix gives Claude an unimpressed glance and replies, “Thanks for your concern about the royal coffers – they’re doing just fine.”

“I do think it’s a better idea to stay overnight,” Dimitri says. “It’s been a few days since we’ve been able to properly rest. We should take opportunity to do so before we have to travel back. And… I want a chance to talk to you one-on-one.”

Felix seems conflicted for a few moments, but finally, he acquiesces: “Fine, I see your point. Let’s do that, then.”

To be safe, they have one of their guard arrange things with the innkeeper Claude recommends to them and keep their traveling cloaks pulled up as they enter through the inn’s backdoor. Their dinners are sent directly to their room – the food is so rich and savory that even Dimitri can taste it when he closes his eyes and concentrates on the flavor. Dimitri tries to pour out glasses of ale for them both, but Felix silently shakes his head to refuse it.

After their plates have been cleared away, Felix asks, “So what did you want to talk about?”

Dimitri meets Felix’s gaze and his resolve doesn’t quite falter, but it certainly flickers. He wants to ask if Felix remembers what he said the last time he drank – because Felix has been so steadfastly refusing to drink in front of Dimitri ever since – but he can’t quite work up the nerve. So instead he decides to ask about something more immediate: “It’s about the plan we agreed to,” Dimitri replies. “I understand why we need to go with a preemptive attack… but something about it doesn’t feel right to me.”

Felix sighs softly and nods. “I thought that might be what this is about,” he says. “Alright, go on.”

“I thought that when we won the war, the bloodshed would come to an end along with it… Was that too naïve of me?” Dimitri asks.

“Yes, of course. As long as people are allowed to have individuality, there will always be disagreements strong enough that people are willing to fight for what they believe in,” Felix replies.

“When you say it like that, without hesitation, I find myself inclined to agree with you,” Dimitri says. “But when I think it in my own head… somehow it feels bleaker.”

“That’s because you’re more of an idealist than me,” Felix informs him. There’s a pause – Felix glances up and Dimitri almost wants to say that Felix looks embarrassed before he continues: “That said, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being an idealist, so long as you don’t completely lose touch with reality while chasing your ideals. In fact, that part of your character… I don’t dislike it.”

“Oh,” Dimitri says. His mouth feels suddenly dry; he’s not sure what words to use that can express how happy hearing that made him. “Well – thank you, Felix.”

“It would be better if you could keep yourself grounded on your own, of course, but that might be asking too much,” Felix quickly replies, but Dimitri doesn’t miss the fact that Felix’s cheeks flush pink.

Would it be too bold for me to get my hopes up? Dimitri wonders to himself – and then he remembers Claude’s advice from earlier in the day. He takes a steadying breath and decides to throw abandon to the wind. “I do count on you to see the things that I don’t,” he says. “It’s one reason among many that you are irreplaceable to me.”

Felix falls silent and Dimitri unconsciously stiffens up as he prepares for the worst. But after a few moments pass, Felix finally replies, “That’s why I agreed to become a royal advisor.”

“I don’t mean your station, Felix, I mean you,” Dimitri says.

“Don’t push this,” Felix says sharply.

“I’m not even sure exactly what it is that I’m pushing,” Dimitri answers. He has a feeling that if he backs down now, then nothing will ever change between them: they’ll always be stuck somewhere in-between, never moving forward yet unable to return to the way they once were.

And Dimitri wonders if Felix senses the same thing, because Felix is visibly torn between emotions – his body is tense and the way he scowls indicates irritation, but Dimitri can read something softer in his gaze. “Your ideals onto reality,” Felix replies. “You don’t even realize… no. Never mind.”

There’s an uncomfortable emotion building up in Dimitri’s chest. At first he thinks it’s anger, but then he realizes it’s frustration, not only with Felix but also – and mostly – with himself. The last time that Felix had spoken those words to him, he’d been unable to respond; now, months later, he still isn’t certain how he should reply. Dimitri breathes in slowly and tries to center himself as he considers what he could possibly say to cause some kind of breakthrough.

But then, as he exhales, it occurs to him that it’s strange for him to be so nervous in front of Felix – after all, Felix has seen him at his very worst. Felix remembers all the embarrassing things he once did as a child, and he can read Dimitri’s tells as if Dimitri were an open book in front of him. There is very little left for him to expose – and Dimitri wants to have the faith that if he doesn’t pick quite the right words, Felix will still try to understand what he truly means.

So instead he laughs. It’s a quiet, gentle peal – but it seems to shatter all the tension between them. Felix is briefly surprised, but then his expression softens and he visibly relaxes. “You know, we still fight exactly the same way we used to when we were young,” Dimitri says. “Both of us are always trying to be overly mindful of the other while still thinking we’re definitely the one in the right. Ah, although I suppose nowadays you don’t go crying to Sylvain – ”

“That’s enough of that,” Felix cuts in. “What’s your point, boar?”

“I have something I have to admit to you,” Dimitri replies, “and a confession to repeat. But I won’t say them now… I’ll tell you after we’ve taken care of the Agarthans. In exchange… I want you to respond to me properly. Does that sound fair to you?”

Felix stares at Dimitri for a few moments, and Dimitri can tell by the look in Felix’s eyes that he’ll agree before he even says it. “Fine. I’m not sure what’s going on in your mind, but… that’s acceptable to me. So we can stop arguing now, right?” Felix says.

They always used to end their fights like that when they were young as well. Dimitri laughs again, and this time Felix cracks the tiniest of smiles. “Yes, let’s,” Dimitri agrees.

“Then we should both rest. We’ve another long few days of travel ahead,” Felix says.

Dimitri knows the uphill battle is yet to come. Even still, for the first time in weeks, he manages to fall asleep the moment his head hits the pillow, and he sleeps all through the night without once stirring.

 

 

 


 

 

 

To keep things as confidential as possible, Felix forms a small group of Kingdom forces to meet up with the Knights of Seiros before traveling together to Hyrm under the pretense of doing an official patrol for bandits in central Fódlan. He decides to take Ashe, Annette, and Ingrid along with their handpicked battalions, and puts Ingrid in charge of battle command.

The night before the group leaves, Dimitri makes a point of dropping by Felix’s room. After he checks to see if Felix is prepared – and of course, Felix is – Dimitri admits, “I wish I could go too. I think… I’d feel more at ease if I could be there.”

“You are the king of this continent,” Felix says, “and you have no heir. It was different when we fought against the former Empire. Back then, we were trying to bring stability back to the land… now, we’re trying to protect the stability we won. I don’t think this will be a difficult battle, but either way, it doesn’t make any sense for you to risk yourself unnecessarily.”

Dimitri sighs softly. “You’re right. I understand that you’re right logically, but – my heart cannot agree with it,” he murmurs.

“Don’t be so melodramatic,” Felix says.

Despite himself, Dimitri laughs at that. Before he can gather himself enough to think up a proper reply, though, Felix shifts his weight and looks down briefly – then quietly, he adds, “I did say I’d only do reckless things when you’re there to see it happening. So… nothing to worry about, then.”

“I’m happy you remembered that,” Dimitri says, after an embarrassed pause.

Felix shrugs, but his ears are bright red. Dimitri decides to take his chances and reaches out, carefully touching the side of Felix’s face with the back of his hand – he traces the line of Felix’s cheek with his fingertips, lingering near his lips for a few seconds before he withdraws his hand and smiles tentatively.

“I await your safe return,” Dimitri tells him.

They leave things at that for the time being.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Things end in very much the same way that they begin: Felix returns to Fhirdiad triumphant. This time, though, his success is a well-kept secret, so that Felix is spared from enduring public celebration. Instead, he quietly submits his mission report right to Dimitri’s desk and says, “Things went smoothly. To be safe, the Knights of Seiros will do a follow-up in a week… but we believe that the threat has been neutralized.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Dimitri replies. “Thank you for your hard work, Felix.”

“If you wanted to treat me to dinner to show your gratitude,” Felix informs him, “I would accept that.”

Dimitri smiles fondly and says, “Well, in that case, might I have the honor of joining you for dinner later?”

Felix shifts his weight uneasily and replies, “You could also… tell me some things afterwards. If you felt like it.”

“I see,” Dimitri says after a brief pause. “Food first, though – right?”

“Obviously,” Felix replies.

“Obviously,” Dimitri echoes, smiling slightly. “Leave the preparations to me, then. Can you come back in… say, around two hours?”

Felix nods to show he’s heard before he leaves. Dimitri immediately uses the excuse to work off some nervous energy to walk to the kitchen himself and request that they ready a dinner for two in one of the smaller, private dining rooms – then he proceeds to spend the rest of his time pacing around his study trying to think of what he should say during the conversation ahead while simultaneously finding it impossible to focus properly. In the end, he gives up on mental preparations and instead passes time reorganizing his papers, then eventually putting them all back to where they originally were.

Dimitri expects his nerves to increase when Felix returns, but instead, they’re soothed – seeing Felix’s face, he remembers that it’s such a perfectly normal thing for them to have a meal together, and that thought is enough to make him smile.

“What’s with that look?” Felix asks, giving Dimitri an odd glance.

“I’m relieved, that’s all,” Dimitri answers. “Seeing you put me at ease.”

“Sometimes you say the strangest things,” Felix says. He turns away slightly, but Dimitri doesn’t miss the fact that he blushes a little.

They walk to the dining room together and the meal passes quickly once they start talking; they settle into their usual conversational flow with the same familiar give-and-take that they’ve built up over time. Comfortable, Dimitri thinks, might be the most accurate word for it: sharing these small, everyday moments with Felix makes him feel like he’s at ease the same way that he once felt whenever he’d go home as a child.

There is a natural lull when they finish up their dinner. Eventually, though, Felix breaks the silence: “Let’s walk,” he says.

The sun has already begun to set, but the evening air is crisp without biting into the skin. For a while, they wander without any particular destination in mind – but eventually, they end up in front of the castle’s private oratory, where nobody is likely to accidentally overhear their conversation because of how out of the way it is from the castle’s main halls. Hardly anybody goes there except to keep it clean; Dimitri can’t even remember the last time he prayed there. The room itself has a peaceful, serene atmosphere to it, though – there are two simple, stained-glass windows on the northern and western walls. As the sun sinks below the horizon, it shines through the western window and sends a pleasant, orange-pink haze all through the room.

“So… should I start with the admission or the confession?” Dimitri asks.

For a few moments, Felix doesn’t react. Then he sighs slowly and brings his hand up to his face. He pinches the bridge of his nose and doesn’t move his hand away. “Maybe it would be easier if I make an admission of my own first,” he murmurs. “I think I know what you’re going to say in either case.”

“Really?” Dimitri replies, blinking in surprise. “I knew the confession would be obvious, since I told you to expect it, but – ”

“You’re going to tell me about what I said to you the night I’d come back from putting down that first rebellion,” Felix cuts in. He finally lets his hand drop back down to his side, glancing up at Dimitri from the corners of his eyes. “It was when you were taking me back to my room. Am I wrong?”

“No, you’re right,” Dimitri answers. The implication of what Felix has said only hits him about half a minute later, though – suddenly, Felix’s stalwart refusals to drink in front of him make so much more sense – his jaw drops and for a few moments, all he can do is stare at Felix as he attempts to process how he needs to recontextualize everything he was originally planning on saying.

He then realizes that Felix never actually claimed he didn’t remember what happened, he’d simply assumed that Felix had forgotten because of what Felix had asked: Did I do something that you want to talk about? After that, the third revelation is but a hop and a skip away – It wasn’t that he didn’t remember. Felix thought I was ignoring his answer on purpose.

Dimitri wants to laugh almost as much as he wants to cry in sheer relief. “So it was cowardice after all,” he murmurs to himself.

“What? I can’t hear you – ” Felix begins to say.

“Felix,” Dimitri interrupts. “Maybe it would help if we start from the very beginning? By which I mean the first time I confessed to you… so, around half a year ago. You said then that you couldn’t answer.”

“Of course I couldn’t answer right away,” Felix replies immediately, frowning and crossing his arms. “There were a lot of things to consider – which I figured you had not, I should add.”

“But you did intend to answer at some point,” Dimitri says. “That’s… not the impression that I had gotten, though.”

There’s a pause before Felix replies, “Ah… so that’s why you didn’t say anything when I finally gave an answer.”

“Well, to be fair, you were very drunk at the time,” Dimitri says, giving Felix a rueful smile before he continues. “I could tell you were being honest, but I thought – that it was a slip of the tongue, I suppose. That you hadn’t meant to tell me at all.”

“It was a slip, in a sense,” Felix admits. “… I did plan to answer you properly, but when I saw your face, it just… came out.”

“Then the next morning, when we talked – I thought you had forgotten about what you’d said, and you thought I was glossing over it,” Dimitri says.

“And then we – but mostly you – proceeded to send mixed signals for the next two and a half months,” Felix continues, raising an eyebrow and giving Dimitri an unimpressed look, “mutually confusing each other in the process. What an incredible mess.

Dimitri can’t help but laugh at Felix’s blunt assessment of their tangled web. After a moment, Felix cracks a smile too. “But you were a half-step ahead of me until moments ago,” Dimitri says, continuing partially out of curiosity – but also to flatter Felix’s ego a little. “You knew what my admission was going to be… might I ask how?”

“I realized it when we were riding back from Derdriu,” Felix answers. “You said you were going to confess again, so I figured there must have been something I misunderstood, and that was the only incident that came to mind. Of course it was that you were trying to be overly considerate.”

“Sorry,” Dimitri says, smiling sheepishly.

Felix sighs and looks away momentarily. Quietly, he says, “It’s partially my fault too. So don’t apologize.” Before Dimitri can reply to that, Felix turns back to him and asks, “Anyway, are you going to confess or not?”

“Oh, uh – should I? I think – I hope we both already know what the outcome is going to be,” Dimitri replies. He handles the syllables clumsily, tripping over the words a bit; Felix smiles slightly but with a depth of fondness to it that makes Dimitri feel incredibly warm.

Felix elbows him gently and says, “Just do things properly, boar.”

“Fine,” Dimitri replies, suddenly nervous even though he himself just said that he knows what the outcome will be. “Alright. Give me a moment to mentally prepare.”

Dimitri turns to face Felix. The light through the stained-glass has a different character than the moonlight – he remembers thinking that Felix almost looked fragile under the moon, but now all of that vulnerability feels as if it has been gently burned away. All he can see in Felix’s expression now is a quiet, brimming resilience.

“I can’t begin to explain how much it means to me that you’ve stayed by my side for all this time,” Dimitri says. “And I want you to know that there will always be a place by my side and in my heart for you. I know the future is a lot to promise, but I – ”

“Too long,” Felix cuts in. Swiftly, he takes a step forward and puts his hands on Dimitri’s shoulders, pulling himself up so that he can kiss Dimitri – for a split second, Dimitri is frozen in surprise, but then his heart melts with a glowing warmth as he kisses back, clumsily wrapping his arms around Felix to hold him closer.

Even after their lips part, they continue to gaze at each other in silence. There is an intense, open fondness in Felix’s expression that makes Dimitri feel as if the only thing keeping him from floating off of the ground is the fact that Felix is anchoring him in place.

Felix sighs, but then he smiles – Dimitri doesn’t think that he’s seen Felix smile like that since they were children. There is no restraint to his happiness, and he is unashamed to show his joy freely. “I want to make you smile like that for the rest of your life,” Dimitri blurts out.

That makes Felix wrinkle his nose, but that pure, airy contentment that’s left Dimitri pleasantly stunned doesn’t leave his expression. “Isn’t there something else you should say instead?” Felix says.

“Like what?” Dimitri replies.

“You’re hopeless,” Felix informs him. After a pause to gather himself, he continues: “I love you. Even though I know there will be difficulties ahead… and things will not always be ideal, I’m willing to accept that. Now – your response?”

Dimitri can’t help but laugh, because the sheer amount of delight those words bring to him simply can’t be contained within his body. He leans in and presses a brief kiss to Felix’s lips again, relishing in how simple it is – and then he replies, “I love you too.”

No more qualifications, he thinks, are needed.